With one the most agile Porsches ever across one of the most legendary mountain passes in the Alps. GQ motoring ed Dieter Losskarn travelled all the way to Italy to conquer the 82 (!) hairpin turns of Passo dello Stelvio. The slick Boxster GTS absolutely thrived in its natural habitat.
The screen image is a sight to behold. At first glance it looks like the webcam picture of a snake park. As it happens the GPS image shows Passo dello Stelvio, or Stilfser Joch in German, which does sound slightly less spectacular. With 2757 metres it is one of the highest mountain passes in the Alps. Definitely the one with the most hairpins, and the most exciting way to cross from Switzerland into Italy. Built in 1825 and attracting motorists ever since the birth of the automobile.
Especially in the this – nomen est omen – racing yellow Boxster GTS. You need power to have fun in those endless bends and it has to be a convertible to be able to look up the mountain pass to check for oncoming traffic. The Porsche ticks both boxes. As soon as the road is clear 260kw & 430Nm are pulling the open GTS around those perfect curves, accompanied (in Sport plus, with the exhaust flaps open) by an awe-inspiring soundtrack. The combination of perfect weight balance and precise steering makes this vehicle the ideal mountaineer. Gaining altitude rapidly, while the boxer engine is babbling along in my back. I almost don’t miss the old six-cylinder boxer anymore. Well, maybe a little bit.
On those narrow mountain roads I really do prefer the Boxster GTS to its more powerful and much more expensive big brother, the 911. It is narrower, shorter, lighter and thanks to the mid-mounted engine more agile around bends and hairpins. And the unobstrusive braking of the inner rear-wheel results in almost no tyre squealing or ESP activation, despite lots of fun in the curves.
If you see the GTS as the more affordable alternative to the 911 convertible, it is worth the premium of R172 000 on top of the Boxster S. You might only have an additional 12kW, but in the mountains they are well worth the R14 333 each. And with the GTS badge you get a slightly lower car, a black spoiler lip in front, dark bi-xenon head and rear lights as well as GTS lettering on the sides and the back. Not to forget the appropriate end pipes, painted 20inch wheels and Alcantara sport seats with GTS stitching.
I am lucky that during my stay I experienced what weather frogs dubbed the summer of the century in Europe. The GTS stayed nearly permanently open. Except in the mornings to rid the soft top of the morning dew. But as soon as the sun has steamed it off, the soft top opens in ten seconds, at speeds up to 50 km/h.
Despite my GPS I decide to go totally non-digital by buying a proper folded paper road map at a service station. In order to search for the smallest and bend-richest pieces of tarmac around. When you happen to be in the area make a point of taking the following mountain passes under your wheels: Julier, Flüela, Bernina, Gavia and Timmelsjoch. Not only are they all spectacular, but also difficult to identify on top, as visitors who conquered them tend to cover the pass name signs with stickers of all kind. A nightmare for the road maintenance crews, who are constantly scraping them off. The most adventurous of them all is the 2621m high Passo di Gavia. It is not very well-known, quite remote, closed from October to June due to heavy snow, and it is barely as wide as the Boxster, with very view chances to let on-coming traffic pass. The scenery is breathtakenly beautiful, culminating in a huge lake on top. Gavia is a real piece of work, but very well worth it and my favourite pass of them all.
What I love at the top of all those passes are the cosy restaurants, pubs and little hotels, where you can have a hearty meal or strong espresso, while catching your breath and enjoying the vistas.
Time flies like the GTS around the curves and soon it’s my last pass of the trip. Another highlight. After staying over in a tiny place in South Tyrol, the German-speaking part of Italy, I start very early with my ascent of Timmelsjoch High Alpine road. At the top of the pass it’s sunny with a bone-chilling minus 4 degrees. The heater works perfectly, so the Boxster stays open. But the below zero temperatures are turning the descent into Austria into a bit of a challenge. With frozen dew in some of the bends and stone-hard rubbers in contact with the icy road surface. A natural high with a bit of ice, ice baby.
The trip ended as it began. With me falling asleep in a Boxster. One turned into a bed, featured in one of the themed rooms of the V8 Hotel near Stuttgart. No better place to dream about a topless alpine mountain trip with endless bends and hairpin turns.
Porsche 718 Boxster GTS
Engine 2.5-l. flat 4cyl., turbo, paired with a 7-speed PDK
Power 269kW and 430Nm
Top Speed 290km/h
0-100km/h 4.3 seconds
Price R1 187 000
GQ – places to experience
V8 Hotel Stuttgart
Even if you have only homoeopathic amounts of petrol running through your veins, you have to stay in one of the motor-themed rooms at the V8-Hotel in Stuttgart. Appropriately I slept in a Porsche Boxster before my trip in one. Guests get special prices for tickets to the Mercedes-Benz and Porsche Museums. And they can rent a classic car at reception.
The shrine to Porsche enthusiasts worldwide, celebrating its 10th birthday this year. If you love Porsche, you must at least once do the pilgrimage to Zuffenhausen to enter this architectural masterpiece with its priceless exhibits.
Top Mountain Museum
Close to the spectacular Timmelsjoch Hochalpenstrasse, connecting Italy and Austria, you’ll find Europe’s highest motor museum at 2175m. More than 230 bikes & cars are showcased on 3000m² in a spectacular building.